Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


Additional Links

GUEST.—Hospitality was, and to a large extent still is, one of the chief virtues of Oriental life. This was due in large measure to the nomadic character of Eastern peoples, among whom there was no provision for the traveller apart from private entertainment. The casual passer-by, the unknown stranger, even the enemy, were welcomed to tent or house, provided with food and lodging, waited on often by the host himself, and dismissed without being expected or even allowed to pay for their entertainment. Even yet, where the influence of travellers and tourists from the West has not corrupted the ancient manners, the offer of payment is regarded as an insult. The practice of ages has invested the guest with a peculiar sacredness: a breach of hospitality is an almost unheard of disgrace. Underlying this ready hospitality of the East is the idea that every stranger is daif Ullah, ‘the guest of God.’ The host himself is a sojourner (Heb. gçr, Arab, jar) with God; the stranger is a fellow-guest, and loyalty to God demands that he should be hospitably entertained. Not unlike this, though on a higher plane, is the teaching of Jesus as to God’s knowledge of and provision for our needs, which frees the trustful, childlike heart from all undue anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31).

In the Gospels, however, it is not the free hospitality of the nomad desert life that meets us, but the more restricted hospitality of the town, of meals and banquets.

The word ‘guest’ occurs in Authorized Version of the Gospels only in Matthew 22:10 f. (in the parable of the Wedding Feast), where ‘guests’ = ἁνακείμενοι; and in Luke 19:7, where ‘to be guest’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘to lodge’) = καταλῦσαι. The Gr. word ἁνάκειμαι, which indicates the reclining posture then generally adopted, occurs frequently in reference to meals or banquets, and is usually translated ‘sit at meat’ (e.g. Matthew 9:10; Matthew 26:7). In John 13:23 ἀναχειμξνος is rendered in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘at the table reclining.’ The same word is used in John 6:11 in the narrative of the feeding of the 5000, though they, of course, had neither couch nor table. In a few passages κατακλινω occurs, with the same reference to reclining at table; e.g. Luke 7:36 (of a meal at which Jesus was present as a guest) Luke 14:8 (in Christ’s warning against seeking the chief places); cf. art. Guest-chamber. The cognate verb ἁνακλινω is similarly used several times, e.g. Matthew 8:11; Matthew 14:19 etc.

During His ministry Jesus was frequently invited to be guest in private houses. Thus Matthew (Levi) entertained Him when He had called him from the ‘place of toll’ (Luke 5:27 ff.); Martha ‘received him into her house’! (Luke 10:38 ff.); Zacchaeus ‘received him joyfully’ (Luke 19:1 ff.). He was one of the guests at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1 ff.), and after His resurrection He ‘sat down to meat’ in the house of the two disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:30). The Pharisees complained bitterly of His eating with publicans and sinners, yet several of them invited Him to be their guest (Luke 7:36 ff; Luke 11:37 ff; Luke 14:1 ff.), not, as it seems, with the purest motives of hospitality. The words of Jesus to His host on one of these occasions (Luke 7:36 ff.) introduce us to the courtesies which, if not necessarily shown to a guest, were marks of honour and regard, the giving of water to wash the feet, the kiss of welcome, the anointing of the head with oil.

It should be noted here that the request of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, ‘Give me to drink’ (John 4:7), was virtually, according to Eastern ideas, a claim on her hospitality, and in ordinary circumstances it would have been recognized and responded to at once. Her astonishment at the request reminds us that between Jew and Samaritan there was no recognition of the law of hospitality (cf. Luke 9:53; Luke 17:18).

Some of the parables of Jesus reflect this aspect of Oriental life. The man to whom a friend has come unexpectedly at midnight is distressed because he has nothing in the house to offer him (Luke 11:5 ff.). In the parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1 ff.) we note the early invitation of the guests, the calling of them by servants on the appointed day (with καλέσαι τοὐς κεκλημένους, cf. Heb. הַקְּרָאִים 1 Samuel 9:13; 1 Samuel 9:22), the provision of the wedding garment.

In some other passages in the Gospels we have what seem to be traces of Oriental ideas as to the reception of guests, e.g. the instructions to the Twelve (Matthew 10:11; Matthew 10:14; see also Matthew 10:40-42), to the Seventy (Luke 10:5 ff.). There is an Eastern saying that ‘the guest while in the house is its lord’; the host often ministers to his needs with his own hands. With this we may perhaps compare such sayings as Matthew 23:11. In Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:29 the final blessedness of the Kingdom of Heaven is spoken of under the figure of a feast, at which guests from the east and the west shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Most striking of all is the great prophecy of final judgment (Matthew 25:31 ff.), where the destiny of men is made to turn on their granting or refusing to Christ, in the person of ‘one of these my brethren, even the least,’ the position and provision of a guest.

Literature.—Expositor’s Gr. Test.; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, artt. ‘Guest,’ ‘Hospitality,’ ‘Host’; Encyc. Bibl., artt. ‘Meals,’ ‘Stranger’; Jewish Encyc., art. ‘Hospitality’; Vigouroux, Dict. de la Bible, art. ‘Hospitalité’; Hamhurger, RE, art. ‘Gast’; Schenkel, Bibel-Lex., art. ‘Gast’; Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] ; Trumbull, Studies in Oriental Social Life, pp. 73–142; W. R. Smith, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ; Van Lennep, Manners and Customs in Bible Lands; Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys; Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta (passim); Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of Ancient Egyptians.

Charles S. Macalpine.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Guest'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Guardian Angels
Next Entry